Once a Cheetah, Always a Cheetah

Photo of a hockey helmet on top of a hockey bag. There is masking tape on the helmet with the name "Jack" written on it.I had to send a really sad email today. Jack has decided to take a break from hockey this year. After much (much) inner-family discussion on the topic, it was time to tell his coaches.

They were wonderful. Once a Cheetah, always a Cheetah, one said. Jack has been a central part of the Cheetahs, another said.

Jack is welcome back anytime, both of them declared.

I am going to miss that team, I tell you. I’m hoping that Jack will change his mind and want to go back next year or the year after. I told him about what his coaches had said and I swear I saw his eyes get a little watery. When I asked him if he might want to go back in a year or two, he said he might and he looked happy at the thought.

I hope he does. After Jack’s diagnosis, the Cheetahs were our first real-life safe space among other families who understood us. The kindness of the coaches, the support of the other parents, and the leadership of Jack’s older teammates meant the world to us at a time when we needed it so very badly.

Those of you who have been here for a while know how much the Cheetahs mean to us. The tournament trips Jack and I took with the team were like nothing else I’ve experienced. The friends I’ve made rink-side and in the locker rooms are very dear to me. Watching Jack connect with his coaches and teammates and loving to skate has been priceless.

No matter what happens in the future, I am so grateful for this team and all the people involved in it—athletes, coaches, parents, mentors, everyone. Thank you. We love you.

Everyone Learned Something

School starts in less than two weeks, so it seemed like it was time to start work on my kiddos’ summer work packets. We are aaaaaalmost done with Jack’s math assessment test that he is supposed to do before he continues on to complete an hour of math each week during the summer through his school’s online math service.

God, we are losers.

Quinn is done. He didn’t have a lot. Or I didn’t see that he had a lot. Either way, really done or not, he is done done.

I think Sam is done with his math. Frankly, I’m too dumb to help him with it, so you’d have to ask Alex about that. I do know that he is still working on his reading stuff. He has to read two books and write about one of them. I know he’s still working on it because for the first book, he read the same book I just finished. Now, I’m reading a young adult book and he’s reading The Iliad for his second one. Showoff.

Jack had to read a fiction and a nonfiction book this summer. This posed a challenge. He enjoys reading, but he’s never been a chapter book reader, preferring comic books and other books with lots of graphics. I’ve spent the past four years buying every Diary of a Wimpy Kid-esque book I could find because he would deign to read (some of) them.

I’ve been working on coming to terms with him not being a voracious reader like his brothers. Books are a big deal in my life, so it is weird to me that there are people who just don’t love to read. I’m married to one, so I know you can grow up to be a happy, successful, non-pleasure reading person, but c’mon, books are our friends.

I can’t even count the number of books I’ve put in front of Jack, hoping that he’d love to read it only to have him get through one chapter and say, “But I don’t want to read Harry Potter/The Hunger Games/Danny, Champion of the World/The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Finding books for Jack’s summer reading seemed daunting. He and I did a lot of negotiating before he agreed to read the first Warriors book for his fiction book. Each day, I made him sit down and read a couple of chapters. He absolutely loved it—although when I asked him if he wanted to read the next one in the series, he was all, “no thanks!”

Getting him through that book wasn’t easy though. I’d have to remind him to read it and he’d ask for a break after every chapter. Considering this was a fiction book about cats, I was worried that he’d balk at the biography of John Adams I’d picked out as his nonfiction book.

I kid. But really I had no idea what to suggest. He doesn’t read nonfiction books.

But then I remembered. I remembered that he does read nonfiction. He reads it on the internet every single day when he pores over wikis about Mario and Luigi and various other Nintendo things. I searched online for books about video game history and found some. After consulting with him, I got him an adult-level chapter book and, without consulting with him, I also got him an illustrated history of video games.

I figured if he couldn’t hack the first book, I’d let him read the second book. If he liked the first book, I’d give him the second for Christmas. When Jack finished his fiction book, I almost didn’t even ask him to read the chapter book, considering jumping straight to the illustrated history.

But Jack remembered me asking him about the chapter book and when I told him he needed to start the nonfiction book, he said, “The Mario one? Can— I mean, do I have to read now?”

Then he sat down and read happily an for a long time.

Photo of Jack curled up in an armchair, reading a book.He’s been reading that book for three days and he’s on page 140. This is unprecedented.

Huh. I guess this is his way of telling me that he doesn’t want to read the stack of books *I* think he should read, but he would like to read something he’s actually fucking interested in, thank you very much, and I should (a) stop underestimating him and (b) offer him books of interest to him.

Well. It looks like I got my summer learning as well.

A Visual Tour of Summer Thus Far

I haven’t been around here much this summer, but we have been very busy, nonetheless. I haven’t written about it as we’ve lived it, but I want to share some of my favorite photos from the summer—so far.

Let’s start with the face I found in the wall of the bathroom at work.

Photo of a white wall. There are cracks and bubbles in it that make it look like a face.

He looks sad, doesn’t he? I suppose that’s because he has to live in the bathroom.

Okay, that one was a little weird, I know. This next one is better. We took Jack and Quinn to Medieval Times for their birthdays, but for various reasons, we had to do it in June instead of in May, their birthday month. So shortly after school let out, we collected one close friend for each of them and took them to the castle.

Photo of five boys walking along a sidewalk. The photo is taken from the back.

I only wish Medieval Times didn’t cost a million dollars, so we could have added a couple more cute backs of heads.

We also found more cut-rate ways to enjoy summer.

Photo of Quinn in a swimsuit and goggles. He is sitting in a large blue bucket full of water, holding a water gun.

It’s the world’s worst swimming pool.

We should remember that this is also the summer of new white kittens. I have several billion photos of them. This one includes Sam.

Photo of a small white cat sitting in front of Sam.

This is Pickles. Pickles is ridiculously cute. Sam is okay.

We went to the Baltimore Aquarium one day. Jack’s favorite part may have been the one part that had no animals.

Photo of a darkish room featuring tall columns of water, within which are bubbles. Jack is crouched down by one, looking up at one.

I love it too.

We colored Sam’s hair now and again with varying degrees of success.

Photo of Sam with his hair combed over his face. He is wearing sunglasses over the hair. There are streaks of faded blue, green, purple, and orange in it.

He did, however, successfully spend the summer growing his hair.

As always, we had a lot of interspecies interaction.

Photo of the inside of the gerbil tank. A brown gerbil is standing on a gerbil house peeking through the mesh lid of the cage, on which a kitten is standing.

This went better than either the gerbil fight that resulted in chaos and a tetanus shot OR the gerbil escape that resulted in chaos and cat vs. gerbil vs. human shenanigans.

The fourth of July was fun. We used to walk down the street to the park to watch local fireworks, but since we moved, we couldn’t do that this year. So instead, we spent it on the roof of Alex’s office building. It was cool.

Photo of Jack standing in front of a view that includes the Washington Monument. He is wearing sunglasses and looking awesome.

But not as cool as Jack in this photo.

Photo of me and Sam.

And here is Sam looking patriotic and handsome.

Photo of me and Quinn. Quinn is holding a hot dog aloft.

And here is Quinn celebrating hot dogs.

Photo of Jack holding a plate full of crackers.

Jack didn’t care for most of the food, so he ate a lot of plates like this, leading me to make multiple jokes about Cracker Jacks.

Photo of a flag waving in front of fireworks in the dark sky.

It was a really cool night. Furthermore, there was a strategically placed flag that made the fireworks even better.

We also went to a little zoo where you can feed animals.

Photo of Quinn holding out one piece of food to a goat.

I think Quinn dropped this particular pellet, resulting in one very disappointed goat.

There was, however, at this same zoo, an aviary where you could feed budgies. Everyone REALLY enjoyed this area.

Photo of a popsicle stick with seeds on the end. A small bird with wings spread is landing on it to eat.

This budgie, for example. His enjoyment was palpable.

Photo of Jack holding out his arm with a bird sitting on it.

Jack got pooped on a little. He was all, “What do I do?” and I was all, “Wipe it on my shirt,” because that’s what moms do.

Quinn holding a popsicle stick in each hand. There is a bird on each.

This was Quinn’s favorite part of the zoo day.

Photo of Sam holding out a popsicle stick. There are five birds trying to eat off of it.

Sam loved the bird fight over his bird food.

In case we ever need to suddenly flee the country, we got passports for the group of us. In some sort of miracle, all three of my kids cooperated for their official photos. I’m thinking of asking the post office to take our Christmas card photo.

A photo of my, Sam, Jack, and Quinn's passport photos.

Alex already has a passport, but he’s definitely part of the fleeing the country plans.

We went to a concert where the National Symphony Orchestra played music from Pokemon video games while they showed Pokemon footage. Shortly before intermission, Quinn had to urgently go to the bathroom. Then he had to urgently eat a soft pretzel.

Photo in the dark of me and Quinn smiling and he's eating a soft pretzel.

Pretty sneaky way to trick him into a symphony concert—that he actually enjoyed!

We also went tubing on a river, which each of my children enjoyed in a different manner.

Photo of Sam on his back in an inner tube. He couldn't be more relaxed.

Sam took the mellow approach.

Jack peeking out of an inner tube.

Jack preferred an in-river experience.

Photo of Quinn as he falls out of his inner tube.

And Quinn was FULL immersion.

You may have noticed that my kids like water. So we got on the wait list for our neighborhood pool and got a half-summer guest membership. We are working hard to get our money’s worth.

Photo of my three kids sitting by the side of the pool.

See how hard they’re working?

I’ve still been struggling to run, but I’m working my way back—and I even ran a race that I had to get up at the crack of dawn for.

Selfie of me at the finish line.

I almost skipped this race because I was tired and didn’t want to run, but I made myself do it and it felt great. I’m trying to remember that feeling.

This has also been the summer of music for Sam. I feel as if I’ve been spending all of my free time driving him and his bassoon places.

Photo of Sam walking down an aisle after his quintet performance.

He had a camp where he performed in his very first woodwind quintet. I don’t have a photo of that to share here though because the nature of a quintet means there were four other people in the photo.

Did I mention the kittens?

Photo of two white kittens sleeping cuddled together.

These two kittens are like magic. They are so sweet, with each other and with us.

And with that, I leave you with one last photo, taken today. Hopefully the rest of summer will provide just as many good memories.

Photo of Sam and Quinn jumping off of diving boards right next to each other.

Happy Summer!

 

Disaster Struck! Running Edition

Photo of me running to the finish line in a pink shirt with a race bib attached to it. It is NOT an attractive photo of me.

It can’t all be smiles and PRs and flattering race photos. (Photo by Ken Trombatore)

This photo was taken at a 10K race I ran in April. I did not share this photo then for obvious reasons. I share it now because I am kind of delighted by its awfulness and also because it sort of eloquently makes the point that sometimes in a fitness journey, you biff it.

Over the past several months, I have very much biffed it.

I went from running 4-5 times a week to running once every couple of weeks. I lost a huge chunk of my fitness base. I got so bogged down by pace and distance that I had to entirely ditch tracking my runs and wearing my Garmin for the indefinite future.

It’s been ugly.

I lost motivation and then I got sick and then I was out of the habit and then I got sick again and I got busy and then I just didn’t feel like running and then I developed this cough that came with decreased lung capacity and all of a sudden, I wasn’t a runner anymore.

I’m clawing my way back though. I’ve been making an effort to get on the road or the treadmill every day and not feel bad if I walk instead of run. I’ve made peace with shorter mileage. I’m postponing the Big Running Goals I wanted to accomplish this fall and not beating myself up about it.

But I went on a run today that felt incredible. (Hooray for increased lung capacity again.)

My new mileage goal for the year is just to keep running. I’m going to finish out the year with no races longer than a 10K. I’m going to aim for a spring half marathon if I can find a good one. I’m going to sign up early for those big fall running events that I originally intended to do this year.

I’m finally feeling inspired to be a runner again and I’m realizing that inspiration is what I was missing. I hope it is here to stay.

 

* Disaster Strikes! Soda Edition: As long as I’m coming clean about my inactivity, I should let you know that even though I haven’t mentioned it, I am a soda drinker again and have been for months and months. I know. It’s shameful.

Disaster Strikes! Rain/Snake Edition

I, sir, have had enough.

It all started about a week and a half ago with this:

Screenshot of a Facebok status that reads "Should we discuss the rain? Or the window in my basement that blew out because of the water? Or the GIANT BLACK SNAKE that was apparently living there that I saw retreating into the ground after the window broke? Or the fact that Alex took a 45-minute conference call before leaving work after my panicked call? We can discuss any of those things."It was a bad couple of hours.

I texted my friend, explained the situation, and said, “THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” and she texted back to say, “I think this is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone.”

In his defense, Alex did come home before he had planned to so he could help me. This was fortunate considering where once there had been a window, there was now a gaping below-ground hole. Once he arrived home, he took over the wetvac job from me. He even duct taped the hole that the snake disappeared into.

Photo taken of an underground window well taken from inside the house. A screen is jammed into the hole where a window should have gone. There is duct tape on the metal well sides.

See the ripped screen I jammed in the window hole to keep wildlife out?

But prior to his arrival home, I’d been wetvaccing like it was my job while ready to jump into defensive posture if I found a nest of snake babies that had gushed into the basement along with my window and a significant number of leaves, because, and let’s be honest here, if anyone were to find a nest of snake babies in her house, it would be me.

I’m still not quite comfortable with the knowledge that they live just outside my home. Also, a tip: If you’re afraid there might be a snake in your basement, don’t Google “can snakes climb stairs?” because they can and there are lots of photos—and even some video.

I then had to make an emergency phone call to an emergency window guy without consulting with Mr. Conference Calls Are My Life. I understand that this might not sound like a big deal to a lot of you, but to me it was. Finding and calling a brand-new vendor without discussing it with Alex first? That was all kinds of anxiety for me.

I mean, sure, it’s a week and a half later and we still have a board nailed across the hole instead of a new window, so the jury is still out on how well I chose a window repairman, but at least there is a board there. And the guy came by at 10:30 pm on a Thursday to put it there. And he swears he’s coming back on Monday with a brand new window, so I’ll give you our final opinion then.

Of course, the past week and a half have been incredibly rainy and we did a LOT of wetvac work before really coming to grips with the fact that the exploded window was not a cause of our water problem, but rather another innocent victim. The problem is a window well with rain/snake access points.

Alex has done some temporary patching of said window well, which seems to be helping (knockonwood knockonwood knockonwood), so our panic attacks when it starts to rain are lessening.

The exterminator (to eliminate any mice that might be attracting snakes) has already come. The window guy (as previously discussed) is coming back Monday. And the landscapers (who will fix our window wells and improve our yard drainage) start Wednesday.

I’m pretty sure it will never rain again. You’re welcome.

That said, if any of you ever tell my kids about the snake, they will never go in the yard again and whoever told them will be dead to me.

Disaster Strikes! Gerbil Edition

Yesterday got away from me. I had a lot scheduled in the morning, but wanted to take my kids out somewhere to do something fun in the afternoon. I thought I might take them to a movie or maybe on a hike. At the very least we were going to go out to a park.

After my morning and early afternoon appointments, I walked into my office, which is where the gerbils live, and I found two of the girls, Scissorpaws and Jefferie, scuffling and covered in blood. COVERED in blood. Because I’m smart, I broke up their fight with my hand.

That wasn’t the bite that caused all my bleeding though.

I knew I had to separate the two fighters, so I tried to pick up Scissorpaws to put her in my gerbil travel cage and that is when I got the bite that caused all my bleeding.

I called to Sam to bring me the phone and a towel for my finger and I was covered in blood and the gerbils were covered in blood and I did a really goddamn good job of traumatizing my first born, so let’s just call that a win, okay?

Then I had to make an emergency call to the vet. Ironically, when the vet receptionist asked, “Is this an emergency or can I ask you to hold?” I told her I could hold because I evidently am not willing to admit I am making an emergency call even if I am making an emergency call.

I panicked a little when I was trying to figure out how to get both animals to the vet without creating a tiny cage match in my car because I only have one travel cage. Sam is the brilliant one who suggested I put one of them in Tupperware. He’s smart. And level-headed.

I used scissors to stab air holes in the lid though—AND I did it BEFORE I put the gerbil in it—so I’m not completely useless.

Photo of Jefferie in a small travel cage for rodents. Next to her is a small plastic container, in which you can see the shadow of a gerbil.

This is after they came home from the vet. There was a lot less blood by this point.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the vet hospital when it occurred to me that a gerbil bite might be, you know, bad for me as well as the gerbils. I texted my sister the doctor to ask her how likely it was that I would die from a gerbil bite and she told me that it was likely and I should get treated.

I found this upsetting, but reasonable.

I left the gerbils with the vet, who was giving them fluids and anti-inflammatories and antibiotics and pain medicine because those poor little guys were ripped up. They really did a number on each other. Also, If we were to determine how much money I spent per ounce of gerbil on this visit, well, let’s just say I was already depressed enough and also unable to count that high in my semi-agitated state.

Happily, all the treatment those little guys needed gave me ample time to, you know, get a tetanus shot.

Before I was able to go to a human doctor though, I had to go to the pet store to get new gerbil cages because clearly these two gerbils will never be able to live together again and also I can’t trust them with Jetpack, who remained unscathed through the great Gerbil Fiasco of 2015.

Then I waited at an urgent care clinic for an hour and a half for a doctor to confirm that I had, in fact, been bitten by a gerbil and should get a tetanus shot. It then took six minutes for a nurse to give me said tetanus shot and put a bandaid on my finger.

The gerbils still weren’t ready, even though they’d been at the vet for three hours, so I drove home and assembled my new gerbil cages. Then I went to the vet to trade a million dollars for my damaged gerbils and their medicines, which need to be administered via teensy syringes twice a day for ten days.

I very carefully put the gerbils in their new cages, which turned out to be veeeeeery interesting to the cats.

Photo of a small plastic and metal cage with a gerbil inside it. Starfire the cat is right next to it. It is crammed into the back of a bookshelf.

I put them way back on a shelf, surrounded by books so the cats couldn’t push them off of the shelf.

Guess what happened right after I did this?

It turns out when you purchase cheap less expensive cages, they are much lighter than glass tanks and cats have the ability to maneuver them around.

I heard a crash and ran into the office to find that the cats had knocked Jefferie’s cage to the ground and the poor gerbil, although still safely in the cage, thank God, was presumably not very happy, so I moved the new cages with their new residents to my bedroom behind a now permanently closed door so the cats don’t use them as maracas.

Thus far I’ve administered medicine to them twice and no one has been bitten, which, yay! I also haven’t developed tetanus, so I feel pretty good about that, even if my arm hurts where I got the shot.

Both Jefferie and Scissorpaws seem to be doing okay, although they are pretty beat up. Poor kiddos. I have no idea what set them off. But silver lining, at least now we get to hear the scribble scrabble of gerbil paws on plastic all night long, so there’s that.

Fingers crossed for a quick and pain-free recovery for them. I think this incident may have scared me straight from getting new rodents for a while.

And the Happy Dance Was Danced All Around

Today was my kids’ last day of school for the year.

*cue happy dance*

*cue more happy dance*

*stand still for a second*

*launch back into happy dance*

Dude. It has been QUITE a school year. Some of it has been pretty rough. Some of it has been fantastic. All of it is now behind us and I can’t say that I’m sorry. I feel very happy about facing down 62 days (Quinn tells me it is 62 days and if anyone knows that particular statistic, it’s him) of summer.

We celebrated by visiting our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream joint.

Photo of my three kids. Quinn is looking at the camera. Sam is reflected in a mirror behind Quinn, Jack is sitting nexdt to Quinn with his back to the camera, but you can see his face in the mirror.

Happy kids are happy.

This particular ice cream place is weird and hardly ever has customers and feels kinda grungy, but several years ago we went there on the last day and now we go every single year. It works out because none of us ever want to go there any other day of the year, so it’s kind of a disgusting little treat that makes all of us happy.

Sam had a pretty good year this year. He was in 7th grade and has really started to become his own person. I know I always say this, but it’s very cool to watch your kid learn who they are. I am really proud of him as a young man. He’s a good kid.

He’s also super into music. He’s been playing both flute and bassoon in jazz band and advanced band, respectively, and he’s also picking up piano from his general music class. He has all kinds of pretentious ideas about who on the radio is a real musician and who is just in it for the money. (Coldplay and Taylor Swift, for example. Guess who falls into which category.)

When I went to pick Sam up from his bus stop today, I found him running joyfully down the street with his arms flailing about in the air. It was his version of the happy dance.

Jack has also had a good year. He started middle school (6th grade) this year and adjusted to it admirably. I think it helped that his two best friends are in the same program at the same school as him. He also met some new friends who are wonderful. Jack is a very popular and lucky boy.

Jack isn’t particularly verbally expressive, but it is easy to see how grown up he is getting too. I love watching him soak up what is going on around him. I sometimes feel like I can see his brain processing things. There is a lot going on inside that boy’s head.

In addition to his deep thoughts, much of what is going on inside his head is probably a constant cataloging and re-cataloging of information about Mario and Luigi. I had absolutely no idea that there was so much written information about that pair and their friends on the internet as there is. Jack could probably write a three-volume biography of them at this point.
Quietly sidling up to the computer to review said information after his bus dropped him at home was his version of a happy dance.
Quinn has had the rockiest year. It was hard for him because he had to start 4th grade at an entirely new school where he didn’t know a single person. I think about the terror that I feel in certain situations and I am awed by how brave Quinn was to walk into that school.
I talked to him about that today. I reminded him of his first day, when we missed the morning bus and he was crying (and understandably so) when I dropped him off in the morning and how in the afternoon he forgot what bus stop to get off at and ended up in the wrong place and how hard it was for him. Then I reminded him about all the friends he’s made and how he is comfortable with the school and its rules and how much he’s learned. I told him how proud of him I am.
He tried not to smile. He wasn’t about to let on that he is proud of himself too. But I know he is. That kid is a superhero. He did a great job this year. He has had a momentous year in terms of school supports and figuring out what works and so on, but that’s his story to tell. All I’m going to say is that he is learning about himself and he has a team that wants him to self-advocate and he is definitely in the right school, surrounded by the right people.
He was the last of my three kids to arrive home today. I was standing on the porch doing my happy dance, which he greeted with a huge smile. That kid works SO hard to get through his day. I could almost see the weight rolling off his shoulders as he walked away from his bus.
All in all, it was a good school year, but I’m still glad it’s over.
Screenshot of my status update from the Stimeyland Facebook page: "For those of you who have kids who struggle in school, who work SO goddamn hard to get through each day, and who do so with strength, resolve, the skin of their teeth, or just plain sticktoitiveness, please join me in celebrating the last motherfucking day of school! Hells yeah."

Also, for those of you who have kids who don’t struggle and also teachers. Maybe especially teachers.

Here’s to summer.

*continue happy dance*